Admittedly I am fairly new to the whole Charismatic circle. I grew up in an Independent Baptist Church, attended a small SBC pastoral school after high school, interned for three years at a Reformed Baptist Church and then served on staff at a college church plant before taking the opportunity to plant an Assemblies of God church. It’s been a crazy journey to this point! I’ve learned a lot about the church! One thing in particular that I’ve learned is the need for structure within the church.
I’ve heard many times that “we just need to let the Spirit move in the service”, and while I don’t disagree, per se, it’s usually a way to avoid authority. With that said, I want to address the need for structure in three areas of the church: the worship service, the leadership and the membership.
Structure In The Worship Service
Every week I am provided the opportunity to structure the service for Foundation Community Church, and every week I have to examine the songs, the Scripture, the creeds or confessions—literally everything involved—to ensure that it flows according to Scripture. I want it to flow in such a way that those in attendance are brought in by excitement and joy to worship. Churches, I believe, too often begin with a very mellow, sad song and it only hinders deep and authentic worship.
The next two songs are usually deep in theology and have to do with the theme of our text for the day. I want our people to be brought in by the joy of worshiping their Creator but then I want them to understand and realize their utter dependence on their Creator to save the from their sin. We will usually read the day’s text or a confession or creed between songs two and three, it gives a break from singing and allows us to hear the text and hopefully correlate it with the song we’re about to sing. After the third song, myself or someone else will pray before the message.
After the message, if we are doing communion, we will sing two songs; if there is no communion we will sing one. If we are singing two, the song will be focused on the atonement of Christ (to theme with communion). If it is only one song it will be a song of excitement. I want to send believers out knowing the joys and happiness of their right standing in Christ and I want non-believers to see the joy that believers have.
With that being said, let me address the why. Why do we do it this way? Why don’t I just “let the Spirit move”? I’m unashamedly Reformed. I’m also unashamedly Charismatic. (If you would like to know how these two fit together in more detail read this article [written by yours truly]). I believe in the Five Solas, especially Sola Scriptura which limits how we do things in the church to how the Scriptures say to do them. Therefore, when Paul writes “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?” in 1 Corinthians 14:23, and a few verses later in verse 40, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” I see a structure.
If everything should be done decently and in order, then shouldn’t we take time to make sure that be diligent in planning out our service is organized in the best, most efficient way? I believe so! That’s why I contend that churches should structure their service in such a way that it engages people’s emotions, their minds and their spirits; taking them from joy, to reliance and back to joy in reliance.
Structure In Leadership
Nobody really argues that there shouldn’t be leadership. It’s just plain stupid to do so. What people do argue over is the structure of the leadership. Do we need only a single pastor? Do we need a plurality of elders? Do we need a senior pastor and an associate pastor? Are deacons leaders? The list could probably go on for a very long time! Regardless, the question I hope that you ask (especially if you’re a pastor in a church or are contemplating starting a church) is “what does the Bible say about the leadership of a church?”
I am under the conviction that you need a plurality of elders… eventually. I currently am the only pastor at Foundation, but I’m earnestly praying for God to raise up another man to share the load with me. Both churches I served at had at least two pastors who were “senior pastors” in responsibilities. They shared the load of ministry together. The church I served at before planting was extremely helpful in me seeing how this plays out. They were best friends, but completely different personalities. Their gifts rarely, if ever, came in opposition to each other. Both were apt communicators, but one clearly had the distinct ability and calling to do so. The other was extremely gifted in administration, and that’s what he loved to do.
Further, if you have multiple leaders who share the same vision, as your church grows you don’t have to scramble to train people by yourself. This is my ideal elder-member ratio (whether or not its always doable or wise is contingent upon numerous things): 1:10. I want one pastor for every ten members. Not one pastor for every ten people, but for every member. I’m not convinced that anyone can lead more than ten people by themselves.
“What about deacons?” you might ask. My next series at Foundation about the church, and in it I’m going to address the roles of elders and deacons. I’m going to use a phrase that I believe is very biblical and very practical: “the church is led by elders and served by deacons.” Are deacons leaders? Absolutely! But not in the same way that elders are. To use a basketball analogy, elders are the coaches and deacons are the team captains. The elders lead in teaching and vision casting, the deacons lead by implementing that vision.
My dream for Foundation is that we will be a church that loves and serves our community. I pray that one day we will have work days where we have numerous community projects for the church to gather and do. I want those projects to be arranged, managed and overseen by deacons. Community outreach is service, and if deacons called to lead by service, then shouldn’t they be given the opportunity to lead by serving? I believe so!
Structure In Membership
“Why do we need members? Doesn’t it isolate the insiders from the outsiders?” “Why do you need oxygen? Doesn’t that isolate the living from the dead?” If I were ever to have this conversation with people, I would hope that it gets recorded and turned into in a #ReformedThugLife video.
Does having a membership draw a line between those in the church and those outside of the church? Yes. Is that bad? No. Quite the opposite actually. Jesus did modeled it for us. Remember when He fed the 5,000? That likely was just the men. You assume most of the men had wives, so you’re now up to 10,000 people. They likely had children too, right? So, now we are somewhere near 20,000 people. That’s a lot of people! But then Jesus does the craziest thing, He tells them to drop everything and follow him! Suddenly the crowd dwindled down to little more than a gathering. Jesus effectively separated those that were dedicated to the mission from those that weren’t.
In the church we should have the same mindset. Not that “outsiders” aren’t welcomed, because they are, but because at some point you must draw a line and say (in effect) “If you’re dedicated to the mission of this local body, then we invite you to become part of the body for the sake of the body.”
Asking people to join the church shouldn’t be something you avoid at all cost, it’s a necessary part of the church.
Structure in the church is most definitely necessary. Without structure, you are liable (even apt) to go with the wind. Without structure and with one bad decision you are likely to collapse completely. So to those that think we need the least amount of structure possible, or no structure, I entreat you to consider the cost. Consider how devastating it could be to you, your ministry, and your community to not have structure.